Clearly Natural, Part 2

Early this month we posted an article about our approach to natural products by letting the their natural state stand out. As we move throw introducing the new clear packaging we are surprising ourselves with how the items appear. It’s not a bad thing, just different and at times comical.

STIR, NOT SHAKEN

Our new SHOWER GEL is presenting the most interesting reactions. When working scent and essential oils into soap and other base components there is a scenario called the “vanilla effect”. Named for the common culprit, many oils can cause a product to become yellowed or even brownish in hue and often cloudy. To incorporate all our added ingredients to the organic base liquid takes a gentle touch to properly blend all components well. It is soap after all and the lightest agitation will cause bubbles. You cannot whip or shake the mixture or else you end up with voluminous suds that will take weeks to condense and settle before you can even package it.

ROUGH DRAUGHT

These two characteristics has led to some interesting results. No matter how gentle we are, when filling the pouches, a head still forms on the soap. Normally this will take a couple weeks to go down and has absolutely zero effect on the performance of the product if it returns through movement. Combined with the vanilla affect of some of the oils, it causes the SHOWER GEL and PET SHAMPOO to look like freshly poured beers when we fill each pouch. The color differences between scent options provides the appearance of a light IPA to a farmhouse red ale.

SHOWER GEL and PET SHAMPOO showing off their true colors

Now there is no cause to be alarmed, and it should not need to be mentioned that this are not to be consumed internally. The bottom line is that we strive to keep our formulations and ingredients as simple as possible and plant based. We use very little emulsifier in our soaps as they can have a negative impact to the lather. The desired viscosity of our liquid soaps adds to the “head” forming and taking longer to flatten. And as it being soap, it will easily reform when agitated. That means, when it ships to your door it has likely been jostled and shaken quite a bit. No need to let it settle before using it, you will still get the same luxurious lather with every use. In fact, these liquid soaps have the most amazing lather you will likely find in any body wash!

Clearly, we make a great product. It may not be the prettiest (unless you love the visual aesthetics of beer), but the experience it provides is pure beauty.

New Buy 2 Get One FREE Offers

We are testing the waters of using special offers to attract new customers to our brands. Getting something FREE is often the best way to get some attention. This summer, as we get ready for Autumn, we are going to put a little focus on two product lines that we feel demonstrate who we are best. For both lines, it requires selecting your choice of core products to then be presented with the option of an additional free item that you can choose, selecting your preferred option.

There is no need for a coupon code to enter, or special login and is open to all regular customers; although our preference is for this to draw in new customers. Sorry P+J Club Members, this is not available to you.

What are the offers?

BUY ANY TWO BEARD CONDITIONING PRODUCTS GET A FREE BEARD OIL OF CHOICE. Easy enough, right? Mix and Match from our 3 Beard Oil formulas and The Original Beard Butter.

OR

BUY ANY TWO CLAY MASK POWDERS AND CHOOSE A FREE MIX-INS BUNDLE. Quite sweet, huh? Any two of our clay powder mixes will lead to getting a bundle of 3 full size mask add ins to get you started making customized facial masks.

In the future we hope to be able to create new offers to make it easier to try new products or stock up on your favorites.

How does it work?

Shop as normal, adding any 2 qualifying products to your cart. Once they are in your cart you will see a banner pop up presenting you with the link to select your FREE item. If you missed it, you will also see the banner at the top of your checkout page. If you remove a qualifying item from your cart, the free item will also be removed or change to full price.

There are no limits to what scent or formula you can buy, as long as if it is still in stock. Your free item is limited to what is presented as the FREE OFFER – for beard care, it is ONE bottle of beard oil selected from any of our 3 formulas and up to 17 fragrances; the bundle for the Clay Mask offer is limited to a few of our Aromatherapy scents, which is one of the 3 bundle items.

Limits: Each customer can receive ONE of each offer. Why? This offer is to help introduce our brands to more people. We wish to have enough product to meet anticipated demand and we wish to prevent this offer from being abused. What to let your friends in on this, just share the link to our site. This offer will expire and is limited to in-stock items only. There are no rainchecks or alternate offers if we are sold out. We may cancel this promotion earlier than planned if we see that we may not be able to keep up with demand.

Clearly Natural

Natural isn’t always colorful and “pretty”. But, it is still beautiful.

By introducing many of our natural products in clear packaging we are showing off our products contents as a priority. With many of our items not having added colors and relying upon natural oils and other ingredients it presents them in their off white or yellow hues. They are rarely clear, often opaque or cloudy in appearance. To some that may seem wrong, that we should hide these less “attractive” traits by using colorants or hide them in their packaging. We don’t agree.

There is beauty in these less colorful products. That is the beauty of their natural state, untouched by bleaching agents and artificial colors. We see that lack of unnecessary ingredients to make them appear more vibrant; offer no tangible positives in performance. Tiny imperfections caused by using very simple production methods proof of our brand’s commitment to natural. While our contemporaries use flair to distract your eyes, we let our products be seen for exactly what they are made of.

We do use color here and there to help differentiate formulas and scents. And where it makes sense, such colorants will remain in use. As we migrate to our new Stand-Up Pouches for all our liquid soaps and conditioners, along with the clear bottles and jars we have been using, we wish to let the simplicity of their formulations shine through. While you may see dingy and dull colors, yellows and grey hues; you are seeing proof that we make natural products free of all that is not necessary to bring you a quality product that performs as needed.

There are others who make products that remain clear, or pure white; even may have a pastel color. In most of these instances extra steps are taken to remove the color from the natural ingredient, or they use fruit based colorants and compounds like titanium dioxide to make their product more “pure” in appearance. Our view is that the product in itself can show off how natural it is without the need to appeal to a sense of perceived purity through added colorants.

Don’t expect us to be embarrassed by any of this, as it is a reason for us to be proud. And we feel that the folks who buy our products will relish our decision to not hide the natural beauty of our products. This is just one more way we buck trends and carve our own path.

Change is Afoot

During our downtime the last few months we have been take a deep look at so much of our business. Despite the reasons why we had this time, it is very appreciative to have such time. Often we get bogged down with managing the day to day and preparing for the coming days that we don’t get a chance for true analysis of everything we do. In some situations, we were placed into a position where we were forced to think of a new way to do things. Whether it is a little as changing a package to having to rethink formulations for popular products.

When you look at any businesses’ back story you will often find that very challenging circumstances lead to great opportunity and future success. We would like to think that we are in a challenging time for our business and we wish to take the opportunity to fine tune ourselves in the hopes it leads to future success. We are taking a moment here to introduce some of our plans for change. Some of these we may have touched on previously, the rest may even seem surprising.

Packaging Changes

Seemingly everyone decided to start making hand sanitizer. Because of this, the most common sizes of bottles we use are simply not available. Even looking into other shapes and colors have come up empty. And, it’s not just bottles but caps as well. The interest to move into a more Eco-friendly packaging model has been on the whiteboard for some time now. Our solution is to package as many liquid products into pouches is in the works. These pouches can serve as the primary storing and dispensing method in your home, or they can serve as a refill to use in any bottle of your choice.

Some products may not suit this method well, and in those instances we are looking into new sizes. We already started migrating our 120ml Beard Shampoo and Beard Conditioner to 180ml bottles. Hand and body lotions will follow suit as we move through existing inventory.

To ensure consistency of our presentation, we are discounting some product options to help move the older packaging out. Once this process is complete, expect new photos of the new packaging.

New Product Formulations

Some may already be aware, to others this may be a new detail about our business and our products that you may not be aware. We have relied upon pre-manufactured bases. Early on, this was a means for us to offer products that are not easily made from scratch. Sourcing premium quality organic bases from a very reputable and internationally know maker of personal care assured us that we would be providing our shoppers a product that would perform extremely well. This also kept production costs down and permitted flexibility. These bases have be used to make all liquid soaps, foaming soaps, lotions and hair conditioners.

Our first foray into a house made version is our Beard Conditioner. With this formula, we were able to craft a very specialized conditioner that meets the needs of beard hair. It also allowed us to add in beneficial nutrients into the product at the optimum point in the making process. This experience has lead us to expanding into making our lotions and hair conditioner in house. We can still ensure premium quality and maintain flexibility, as well as offer a more dynamic formulation. We will be starting this transition with our REVITALIZING LOTION with Kelp. Soon afterwards, expect to see all our lotions made from scratch!

Bar Soaps will also experience a change. When we introduced the three formulations we currently have it was a means to find out what shoppers liked best. Every reaction was noted, along with every suggestion. The plan is to move through existing CRYSTAL and ORGANIC bar soaps and move some of those fragrances to our SHEA + OATMEAL soap. Other scents will migrate to a new glycerin soap recipe that includes better skin nourishing ingredients. We hope to introduce these changes this fall.

An Entirely New Look for J&L Pogonotrophics on the Horizon

From the day one, our Beard Care line of products has incrementally evolved into its current look. Little tweaks here and there have led us to our current label style that we use across the entire line. Realistically they really haven’t changed a great deal. Well, that is about to change. As we work into getting our products on the shelves at retailers, we feel a more refined approach would be beneficial to our namesake line of distinctive beard care products.

The initial impetus: Roughly a year ago we changed our design software for our labels. To put it simply, this new software didn’t like our current label layouts. Although we use standard file formats, they did not all translate well when opened in the new software. This has led to us rebuilding the labels as best as could while retaining the current look. Some may have noticed the colors were not exactly the same, but a bit darker. Taking some feedback and looking at the current landscape of package design, we feel it is the right time to go in an all new direction.

Select branding nuances will be retained. The color scheme for our different formulas will remain, along with our familiar fonts. Gone is the bold presence of our company logo which allows the individual products and their properties to be the focus. We even a borrowed a little from the new Apothecary labels.

These labels are still being evaluated and tested, yet the core of the direction we are headed is evident. Due to packaging needs, there will be the same style variations as you see currently. Smaller packaging will necessitate key elements be of a larger scale. Details we will strive to keep consistent is the “branding block” on the front and the placement of product information; with ingredients on the left, description and suggested application on the right. In our testing we are finding that this design style is much easier to scale to all products which leads to a much more consistent look. Tiny nuanced details will be refined before these are finalized and our rolled out to with new production runs. We feel that giving the product details center stage allows it to speak for itself.

New Product Development Shelved

We have a few items on the shelf, awaiting for the right time to launch. With the current environment it may not be wise to take on the risks associated with introducing all new products. Such items as deodorant, spray cologne, new body oil, body mist reformulation all for J&L Apothecary; and a utility soap bar for J&L Pogonotrophics are still being considered and internally developed. We are also looking into migrating our liquid soaps to an in house formulation. If we see the necessity of enough interest in these or other items, we will re-evaluate our position.

We Believe Change is Good

We never want to become stagnate. The surefire way to prevent stagnation is to be open to change. Change is scary to many, to make it easier for them we will call it progressive development. Some feel change is necessary for the sake of change – that is not us. You will not see us sweep aside so much of who we are and what we stand for just to show that we are now different. At the root, we are about simplicity when it comes to personal care. That root forms two trunks – a beard care brand that is rather masculine by nature; and our bath & body brand that caters to every body. This will not change! Products, formulations, fragrances, packaging and logos will change. Some may change more frequently than others.

You are our inspiration for change. By telling us what you like and what you don’t like gives us the information we need to either improve what we are already doing as well as to try new things. And by “you” we mean everybody. Not just those who shop with us as we listen to what others are saying in social media and other forums about personal care and grooming. Doing exactly that is what led to our two biggest inspirations – ORIGINAL BEARD BUTTER and JUNK OIL.

Be on the look out for all that we have presented here. Along with our J&L APOTHECARY rebranding, this year will be a big dose of change that will invigorate and hopefully inspire.

Subscriptions and Memberships – why we offer them and who benefits most.

Customer loyalty is extremely important to any business that wishes to stay in business. Customer retention is a measure of success. Most businesses won’t discuss these things with potential or even existing customers. Yes, they may say “We succeed in customer loyalty”, but that’s just a means to essentially say, “Everybody else likes us, you should too!”

Subscriptions and Membership programs, offered by any seller/retailer, are relied upon to create a baseline of how the business is doing in both loyalty and retention. They are also important in understanding habits, likes, and production needs. This work as a trade off by giving the customer a perk or benefit for their participation.

About Subscriptions

Offering subscriptions on the items that are most commonly re-purchased by a customer allows us to plan our inventory and ensures a level of customer retention. By subscribing the customer not only receives a discount on the product, as well as assurance that they will have the product they need when they need. Having a subscription service that allows flexibility for the customer gives them opportunity to tweak or adjust when and what they receive with each shipment can add to their value.

For example, a customer can purchase a Beard Oil subscription with a specific “favorite” scent in mind. If they wish to try another fragrance they can change their scent option before their next shipment. When necessary, a customer can suspend the replenishment at any time, or even cancel it altogether. You are not locked in!

Subscriptions ensure you have what you need when you need it without having to remember to do it.

About Memberships a.k.a. Rewards Program

Memberships come in different forms and have a lot of different names. In most cases, you are required to sign up to create your account to receive benefits.

  • Earn “points” to be exchanged for cash discounts later%. These are usually free to take part, but some do charge fees.
  • % Cash back. Used by Credit Cards. You may not actually get cash back, but can apply it to your balance or as gift cards to other businesses. This is paid for through a higher APR% on your account balance.
  • Make a specific number of purchases and get the next one free. Often used for drinks or other food items.
  • Receive a lower listed price on select items throughout the store. Uses a card that is scanned at checkout. Often used by grocery stores. In some cases, everyone gets the same price regardless of membership.
  • Pay an annual fee and receive an assortment of perks and discounts.

Let’s look at what is most likely a membership program nearly everyone is familiar with, Amazon Prime. Prime is an enormous multifaceted membership program. It promises lower prices, free shipping with shorter fulfillment times; along with other services like media streaming. They don’t do this for free, you need to pay an annual fee to receive these benefits.

Why is nearly every seller out there offering some sort of membership program?

One part is that they are able to influence you to shop with them exclusively, or more often. In some cases, customers will be exclusive to them. But that is an extreme expectation. Studies have shown that customers are more likely to return to a business they have a membership with, as long as they receive good service when doing business with them.

A hidden component is that the majority of these plans have a hidden mission. Through your membership they can track what you buy and how you pay. This data is compiled and shared with other businesses; often for a price. They have all the information they need – name, address, phone numbers, and email. Depending on the plan, they may also learn your age, gender, race, relationship status, family and residence details. Once you make your payment, they can learn your income level and other financial information. All this information is used for marketing to you as well as establishing various demographic profiles used by businesses and government.

How our Membership Plan is different:

We charge an annual fee. In return, you receive a 10% discount on all items we make, 5% on other items; Free Shipping on every order; a bunch of free products to try and share; special Members Only items.

Your personal information is kept secure and private. We take privacy seriously! What information we have access to is used to process your orders and contact you if there are any questions. You are not added to our mailing list, but we may mail special members only information to you. There is also nothing to really manage, but you do need to have a user account for the duration of your membership. Add the plan to your order and you will immediately benefit – qualifying items in your cart will be discounted and have free shipping. The gift pack will ship with your order, no need to even add it to your cart.

Why do we charge a fee? We look at it as a partial up front payment of shipping fees. The free gifts help sweeten the deal. By paying, you will want to get the most money out of it – to earn back as much of that fee as you can, or more. And simply, it allows us to offer this plan without a hard hit to our bottom line.

Using Subscriptions and Memberships together:

Here is where having a Membership can be a huge benefit. With so many of our most popular and often re-ordered products being available as a subscription, you can save even more! Our subscriptions items usually have a modest discount included, then you can save 10% on top of that. Then, for as long as your membership is active, you will receive every order without paying for shipping.

Who benefits the most from these plans?

Our mission is to make shopping with us, getting the products you enjoy the most, more attractive and rewarding. Subscription benefits are up front and immediate; designed to make it mindlessly easy for you to always have your favorite products on hand. With a membership, you save money on every purchase. In just a couple orders, you will see a big savings by being a member.

When combined is where we see the biggest benefit for us. By selling a higher volume of products, with more frequency, we see a more stable/predictable sales trend. The more these are used by more customers, we can start buying our materials and ingredients in larger quantities. We can also streamline our production capacity to handle the higher demand. This leads to us becoming a more efficient enterprise and the savings will likely get passed along in many of our products.

Transparency

We have a very different view of how a business operates and communicates. It is a no-brainer that any seller is doing it to make money. And, that the more they sell the more money they make. Being a tiny business our profits are tight, leaving little revenue to pay for big advertising. Honestly, the more customers we have that take part in these services helps us budget more reliably and create more effective plans for growth. Your trust in us, demonstrated through your loyalty, brings stability to our business. The best way to make it all happen, is to encourage more folks to shop with us and reward those who wish to shop more frequently.

Transitioning to Flexible Packaging

placeholder not actual product image

The state of the supply chain because of the current pandemic has pushed us into more aggressively seeking a new means to package and sell our liquid soaps. We plan to transition all liquid soaps to a more eco-friendly flat bottom pouch for SHOWER WASH, BEARD SHAMPOO, LIQUID SHAMPOOS and CONDITIONERS.

We started exploring “flexible packaging” last summer to help reduce the environmental impact of the plastics we use. Our thinking was that a soft sided pouch filled with SHOWER WASH would serve as a refill to any bottle you may already have. J&L would still offer an empty bottle and pump for a low price and possibly add some style options as well. This would operate like many other “refill” scenarios out there for household and personal care products.

Now that bottles are in short supply and it can be months before we can acquire more, it is sensible to explore this concept more aggressively today. The process to purchase these pouches is already in motion and could be available to us much sooner than bottles.

There are some great benefits for you and the environment with this change. First, they weigh less and use a lot less plastic. This makes them cheaper to ship; to us from the manufacturer and to you when purchased. Both of these expenses are factored into our product price. Our current bottles can easily be 1/3 to 1/2 the manufacturing costs of everything we make. Where with some bottles it is hard to get all the product out, leaving up to 14% of the product going to waste, depending upon the contents, a pouch makes it easy to squeeze out nearly every drop. Pouches take less energy to produce and dramatically lower the carbon footprint of packaging. By using them as a refill for an existing bottle, less plastic is heading to a landfill. These pouches are also PET, which means they can be recycled. As much as we would love to find a much more green solution to our packaging, this puts us a lot closer to our goal.

Here is the biggest plus to you: where we save money gives us a means to lower their price. Currently our SHOWER WASH comes in a 360ml/12.2 oz bottle and we sell it for $15.00 in our store. A pouch variant could be 400ml/13.5 oz and we could potentially sell it for $13.50 – giving you over an ounce more while you pay less. Our BEARD SHAMPOO could even be a bigger savings. This is all tentative based upon our early negotiations with suppliers.

This plan is in an early stage at this time, but we hope to go into summer making this a reality. If this works out as well as we anticipate, we will work to find similar packaging for lotions and creams along with any other dispensable liquid or cream product we make. The flexibility in this packaging is nearly limitless.

We think you will like all the options this will bring, letting you refill any bottle you have or you could even use it straight from the pouch if you wish to be frugal. Once bottles are more available, we will look into providing a few options to assist in matching your style. Keep following us on Facebook to stay in the loop on this as it develops.

COVID-19 Response (updated 5/16/2020)

We are expanding upon previous communications related to the impact and our reaction to COVID-19.

What we are doing to safeguard ourselves and you:

Since we are unable to use our drop-in production locales during this time. This requires us to make everything in house…my house. Any items that require a more highly sanitized work area will be lower in priority for us to make. This relates mostly to our SERUM HA, FACE WASH and TONERs (which are well in stock at this time).

All other production will take place in a sanitized area that is free of potential contaminants and as always, all tools, containers, work surfaces and materials will be disinfected. First using a chlorine disinfectant, then once dry, items will be wiped with a hydrogen peroxide solution to remove any residue and apply another level of disinfection.

Before shipping, we have always wiped clean all bottles and jars with the 90% alcohol solution. This has been to remove dust and particles that would settle within our storage area for finished goods. As the virus is unable to live in significant quantities past 3 days on any surface, what is inside the package is very likely safe to handle. But, be safe and wash your hands after touching any mail or packages arriving at your home. If possible, wear latex or nitrile gloves.

IMPACT TO INVENTORY:

Due to our packaging and ingredient suppliers dealing with a dramatic increases in demand for components we use, we expect to see tighter inventory levels and an increase in out-of-stock situations during this period. We will be managing our inventory levels for our website more tightly during this time. Through the upcoming weeks we are switching to producing inventory in even smaller batches or ‘to order’ as a means to better meet demand of the most popular items and permit flexibility of packaging. If there is a much preferred fragrance option showing that it is not available, please email us at support@pogonotrophics.com to see if we are able to produce the item for you.

UPDATE 5/16: We moved up our plans to change liquid soap packaging to stand-up pouches. Our initial plan was to introduce this Fall 2020. Due to limited availability of our current PET bottles, we feel that it makes sense to do this sooner. It will take some time for this transition to take place as the pouches will not arrive until this summer. Which is still much sooner than we can expect to have bottles available. In the meantime we will sell through all current inventory of produced inventory. Current unfilled bottles will be sold separately empty, as the pouches will be a great refill to any bottle. Look for these items to trickle in over the coming weeks.

Also, we have remaining inventory of some older bottle styles that we will use for lotions until we can source an alternative package or are able to acquire appropriate bottles. Both of these measures will mean that the pictures may not match the product you receive. The volume listed will remain the same, along with pricing.

PRICING STABILIZED:

We are personally disgusted by those who are working hard to take advantage of this very challenging situation by drastically increasing prices on essential items. It has been our policy from our first day of business to always strive to offer our products at the best possible price. This does leave us with tighter profits due to our size and buying power; yet we feel it would heavily contradict our values if we were to raise our prices without genuine necessity.

If you see any price increases during this time, it will truly be related to a substantial increase in the cost of materials. One of our key suppliers has dramatically increased their prices to where they are no longer a wholesale supplier and no longer a reliable option to buy from. This means we must find other suppliers for our materials which can lead to a higher price paid by us. It is important to ensure we maintain the same level of quality in raw goods (ingredients) that we are currently using.

UPDATE 5/16: We have lowered the price of our 360ml SHOWER WASH to $13.00, a $2 savings. Subscriptions will be $12/unit, plus $1 for the first unit. When the pouch package becomes available, the item will be 400ml and sell for the same price of $13.00.

IMPACT TO PRODUCTION:

During this time, we will place a higher priority on bar/solid soaps. As we sell out of current bar soap formulas, we will be able to start introducing our new Hemp Oil based soap bars. They will be available in many of the same fragrances currently presented. Our Shea Butter Soaps will continue as is, we may add more fragrances to this line as well. As a whole, the CRYSTAL soaps are being discontinued.

Outside of what has been noted above, there will likely be Out of Stock [OOS] situations for select items. Unless explictly noted, they are not discontinued and will be back in stock as soon as we are able to produce them. Sometimes this is merely hours and no more than a couple days. Please track us on Facebook to be informed on any long term OOS items.

A Personal Note:

This is a very challenging time for many lower wage earners who are finding themselves without work due to this virus and uncertainty that the Federal government will find a means to help. We are feeling the impact here as well. This is my sole source of income. As a tiny business, I am essentially the only employee. Bar far this is not a well paying job but it has many other rewards. When in a time of uncertainty, businesses like this feel the hit harder than other businesses, and they feel it sooner. We hope that our loyal followers will consider us during this time when stocking up on their soap and other personal care item needs. Your dollar spent with us goes immediately into our community to support other small local businesses – such as grocery stores, restaurants and other shops where we do our daily business. Shopping from us, helps other businesses like us as well. When we get through this, and we will, I know we all will be stronger.

I thank you all very much for your understanding and consideration. Please continue to be well and help all of us get through this time.

John C Dodge

March Focus: J+L Apothecary Branding Refresh

When we fully committed to J+L Apothecary (JLA) as a product line, it was imperative we clearly create its own iconic brand image. Forus, it needed to be something that captured two key elements of the brand: skin and hair essentials (basics), and be gender neutral.

We took some time looking through the history of modern person care branding. The 1950s was a big change for the marketplace. Many popular products that are household names to this day can trace their origins back to this time. Much like our branding of J&L Pogonotrophics, that evokes the early 1900s with being the last era where men having facial hair was commonplace, we felt that the ’50s was an ideal era to reflect in our branding.

Another time period that had a major impact on the original design for our labeling was the 1980s and the ‘Generic Brands” of the day. A very minimalist, monochromatic style that was heavy on direct and to the point text. With the 1950’s being light on color and images for packaging, mix that with the 1980’s generics with bold text and simplicity, we feel we created something that openly communicated “basics” and not force an engendered appearance.

As you can see above, we went super simple with naming, text style and color. Text was bold, information was minimal and there was as minimal color. When we used color, it was in two ways, to identify a product category, or to highlight variants of a product. The color band that was the highlight for the Brand name subtly noted whether it was a soap, skin care product or hair care product. We didn’t openly communicate that little detail to consumers as we liked hearing the “Aha!” moment when it was figured out.

For our brand refresh we are executing this year we did not want to lose touch on many of those key components, but it was obvious we needed to improve our labels to be more eye catching. With our transition to white or clear bottles and jars, our previous style was less appealing.

The color coding was retained and is still used to denote product category. Gone is most of the white space, to be filled with a coding color gradient. Text remains bold and is more consistently used. Scale of text sets product and variation names apart from helpful product information, which is new to our labels.

With our new look, our product names are more prominent, our brand name is less pronounced and more strategically placed for clarity. Smaller text calls our key features and ingredients. Color is more comforting by use of a gradient that transitions from bold to white.

Testing of this new look was well received. People liked sharpness of the product name being out front. The additional information provided helps one perform a quick comparison to determine if the item will suit their needs. Ingredients are generally on the left; use and maker information to the right. Reviewers felt this was more modern yet very much held to our brand values.

Over the course of this year you will see this branding roll out to more and more products. First we need to move through current inventory of produced goods as well as current label stock. Some products feature above, are still in development but should be launching soon. Also, some items are seeing a minor tweak to their name to better reflect their uses. For example, HAND + BODY LOTION is now called FACE, HANDS + BODY lotion to help customers know that it can also be used on their face with great results. We call it FHB for short, and it will be a featured product on our Facebook page this coming Saturday.

Please comment or share your thoughts with us, it is always great to hear from you.

Subscription items are now available for discounts with Primp+Jol Memberships

Primp+Jol Members: your 10% Product Discount will now apply to Subscription Items. We wanted to make these more attractive to Club Members, and the best way to achieve that is to allow them to bundle on a little savings and get Free Shipping during the duration of the membership. Subscriptions offer you an easy way […]

2020: Year in Preview

The first few months of any year is a time to regroup, refocus and energize to take on all the new challenges that a new year brings. Typically, these are the slowest months of the year in regards to sales and productivity; but not for planning and strategy building. We have a lot of aspirations for this year, as well as some solid goals that we must meet.

This year we are changing a few things in regards to how we promote ourselves. Our newsletters will become monthly and will operate like a newsletter. Much of what each email will contain will be pulled from our blog as well as unique information to be shared first in the newsletter. There will then by a few special emails that will strongly feature products and services. These will be tied to busier times of the year.

We also plan to become more aggressive with our social media presence. This has been something we have been inconsistent with since the beginning. Although J&L is often referenced as a “we”, in reality it is only one person juggling the majority of activities. After production, administrative and operational tasks, there is little time made available for social media posts. Now that I have refined some processes there will be more time for mapping our on-line presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even here on our blog.

Changes to our Festival Participation

Many of our most loyal customer came to us from meeting us at area Festivals and Pop-Ups over the years. It had been or focus to use such events as a means to not only make money, but to be a marketing tool. Having a physical presence where you can meet people face to face helps build a reputation and trust. With the changes in how city street festivals are managed and promoted, we are see a decline in sales from these events in direct correlation to the attendance numbers. This specifically boils down to “bang for the buck”. If we don’t make enough money being there, we are not going to come back.

Although these festivals are well attended overall, most of the attraction is around food, drink and entertainment. Merchants are not valued by the promoters and organizers in conjunction with fewer attendees coming to shop the merchants and see the artists. For these reasons, we are not doing anywhere as many festivals as we have in the past. In fact, we will only plan to take part in Andersonville Midsommarfest, Jarvis Square Music & Arts Fest and possibly Andersonville Arts Week.

Along with our new position on festival appearances, we will no longer take part in farmer’s markets, small bazaars and socials. Most of these are too tiny to drive traffic, are too narrow in appeal while providing less space for presentation. Another issue with such events are the hours of operation are very brief, sometimes as little as 4 hours on one day.

Factory Store Concept

The drawbacks we experienced this year greatly affected our plans for 2019. Our hopes were to have a dedicated space to not only sell our products, but to make them. It was important that we performed well enough in the scheduled events to have the funds to make this happen. This was a major setback for us, but not a defeat. We are going back to our whiteboard and rethink this plan for this year.

Place the Spotlight on Online Sales

For 2020 we will put more energy behind those areas where we are experiencing significant growth. Our online sales grew tremendously in 2019. This was done with zero advertising! This year we plan to bring back an advertising budget and place a more concentrated effort into our messages – micro and macro. From images to written content, we will strive to build a cohesive message that captures our values and our mission while genuinely representing our brands.

A New Business Plan to Guide Us

During these quieter months, we will be drafting a new business plan. Our initial business plan drove us to where we are today, but it is no longer relevant to where we need to go next. We have a strong proof of concept and a solid history to pull from in creating our driving vision for the coming years.

An essential focus will be financial stability and a restructure of any debt. As we have been a genuine bootstrap business, relying on personal funds and credit to build J&L, we have incurred a realistically small debt that carries higher interest rates than other forms of credit. By moving that debt to a new loan with a much lower interest rate, we will free up cash for all the things we wish to do this year. Our current debt is all in revolving credit, a micro loan will allow smaller payments with a solid pay off timeline, a much smarter way to handle it.

We are also opening ourselves up to the idea of a partnership or single investor situation. Bringing in a fresh voice that can also help drive this bus would be very beneficial if the terms are right. It will be imperative that anyone that wishes to become part of our family must like us as we are yet can further our growth and fine tune what we have already. Our customers pretty much like us as we are, we do not wish to alienate them as they have been a driving force for us all along.

At this point in our journey we are not in a critical or dire situation. Our needs at this point are purely to make a substantial jump in our growth. We feel this is a wise move to make at this moment and it can open us up for more rapid growth. We are not looking to dominate, we are merely seeking a higher level of stability. There are a lot of plans we have around new products and improvements for current products that we wish to bring to the marketplace. Once we have achieved those goals, we can then focus solely on improving other areas of our operations as we maintain our catalog of goods. Although, we know that our offerings must be flexible to satisfy changes in tastes and trends.

Products and Product Changes on the Horizon

We have mentioned some of these before with a few of them having been planned for 2019.

First off is Natural Deodorant. This has been heavily requested and something that makes sense for us to get into. We don’t plan to go big, just a couple sensible options.

We had talked about Toothpaste in the past. While it is still being worked on, it is not a huge priority for us.

Liquid Shampoos and Conditioners will return this spring. Production has already started and we have items ready to sell, but we are waiting for “creative” department to do some photos so we can get them out there for sale. We have dropped the plan for solid conditioner as it is not mass production friendly. There will be changes to our Shampoo Bar line with the dropping AMP, reformulating QUENCH as well as SHOCK. We are also considering doing a combo bar or FIXER/BALANCE to address itchy/oily scalp.

Sustainability has always been important to us, but due to our size it has been a very expensive component. This year is where we plan to move away from as much plastic as possible, or at least minimize the amount. This is leading to our revamped concept with liquid soaps. This spring we are going to start using a pouch format for liquid soaps that can re-fill any style of liquid soap dispenser or bottle. This will allow us to keep the price lower as well as reduce the total weight of plastic we are currently using.

Solid Cologne/Fragrance has been immensely popular for us. We are planning to put more energy behind this line with new unique fragrances and new “air tight” packaging. Formulas will see a boost in fragrance strength as feedback has been that they are a tad light.

We will be bringing back Salt Scrubs. This was a line that was badly affected by doing festivals as the heat was causing the sugar to melt. We are removing sugar, and going back to just salt. Scrubs will remain a small-run product that will see very tight inventory levels. Essentially, they will be made to order.

We do have plans to introduce new scents as we are retiring a couple. Tarocco and Citrus Grove have ceased production. Remaining inventory is currently clearance priced. Absinthe & Leather are moving to Expanded Assortment – only available as scented to order. Lakeside and Seaside will be expanded into Beard Care and in more Apothecary items. They were well received as Solid Colognes last year. Also popular as a cologne, Aruba will be introduced as our official new scent of 2020. Expect to see this in all Beard Oil formulas, Original Beard Butter, Shower Wash and Bar Soap.

Expect Expanded Assortment to come to Shower Wash and Body Mist. With other planned changes in production, we intend to make it easier to scent a product on demand wherever possible. A system we are developing will make it possible to maintain an inventory of unscented items with a scent blend “dose” that we can mix-in just before shipping. This is part of our desire to offer more options while keeping prices lower.

In Closing

We are about to reach the end of our 6th year. Through these years we have seen quite a few similar businesses come and go. We cannot express how thankful we are that we are still here and are in a position to consider further growth. What was meant to be a tiny little hobby for myself as grown into a very unique brand that is changing how we all look at personal care. We stand firm that there is absolutely NO REASON to pay so much for premium quality natural products. It boggles my mind to see a shampoo that costs $50 (11 fl oz) and is no better in performance than anything we have every made. Yet there are still beard oils out there that charge $40/ounce for glycerin with aloe and a few drops of specialty oils. This past year I was reminded why what I do matters to so many people. I hope this year, that with your support, we are able to reach our modest goals. You got us here, and we hope to remain a force in the personal care industry. When we have big name brands “borrow” from us, and are even beating us with their forgeries, we will keep making our mark!

A heartfelt thank you to all of you,
John C Dodge
Founder, J&L Pogonotrophics LLC